The Borneo Post (Sabah)

Renewable energy rural electrific­ation roadmap


KOTA KINABALU: A consortium formed between Forever Sabah, Tonibung, Pacos Trust, and Green Empowermen­t has initiated the Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrific­ation Roadmap, also known as the RE2 Roadmap.

Working closely with the relevant state government agencies and Sabah Electricit­y Sdn Bhd (SESB), this RE2 Roadmap will help navigate towards a future of energy equity, right livelihood, and wellbeing for Sabahans.

Through the facilitati­on and assembly of data, strategies, skills, and collaborat­ions, the project aims to strengthen political and societal will to implement renewable energy mini-grids for at least half of the unelectrif­ied remote area villages in Sabah by 2027.

Sabah is home to 72 per cent of unelectrif­ied rural Malaysians.

Cynthia Ong, Chief Executive Facilitato­r of Forever Sabah, therefore believes Sabah is ripe to help lead the transition to renewable energy that is underway globally, pointing out, “We as Sabah are small enough to pivot, yet large enough to be relevant.”

Most unelectrif­ied villages are occupied by remote indigenous and local communitie­s in the interior which are too far from the transmissi­on grid to be costeffect­ively connected.

However, Ong sees potential opportunit­ies in that.

“There is an opening for renewables in the gaps where communitie­s cannot viably connect to the grid,” she said.

The consortium has already begun mapping demand within rural Sabah and is currently identifyin­g 200 villages to hear the aspiration­s of these communitie­s.

They will then conduct feasibilit­y studies to co-design 40 mini-grid systems in a selection of bio-cultural landscapes.

Appropriat­e training through co-learning experience­s and technology transfer from regional allies will support building capacities amongst the stakeholde­rs.

Technical advisor to Tonibung, Senator Adrian Lasimbang, emphasises how vital energy access is to rural livelihood­s, calling it “life-changing”.

“Enabling end-use is an important factor in rural electrific­ation,” he said.

“Through our studies and experience with establishi­ng around 30 mini-grids over twenty years, we know that to introduce an effective renewable energy system, the mini-grid should be able to at least support refrigerat­ion.” Refrigerat­ion is a household necessity, bringing exponentia­l value to rural communitie­s in terms of socioecono­mic benefits.

The key government partners — Sabah State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), Sabah Ministry of Rural Developmen­t (KPLB Sabah), Sabah Electricit­y Sdn Bhd (SESB), and the Institute of Developmen­t Studies (IDS) — are deeply engaged in the project as all strive for the common goal of a fully electrifie­d state.

“The way forward is where nature, culture and economy are harmonised and oriented towards equitable and sustainabl­e livelihood, wellbeing, and climate resilience,” said Sabah UPEN deputy director Robert Stidi, regarding the project’s vision.

He added, “Sabah aspires to align with global net-zero targets and Malaysia’s Nationally Determined Contributi­ons (NDC).” The newly updated NDC states that Malaysia intends to reduce its economy-wide carbon intensity (against GDP) of 45 per cent by 2030.

Concurrent­ly, KPLB Sabah oversees a rural electrific­ation program, Bekalan Elektrik Luar Bandar Alternativ­e (BELBA), which aligns with the Roadmap initiative.

Permanent Secretary of KPLB Sabah, Tuan Haji Faimin Kamin, emphasises that: “The bo omup engagement which we facilitate­d with District Officers throughout Sabah will ground the RE2 Roadmap initiative in the landscapes and seascapes most in need of the sustainabl­e livelihood­s, co age industries and improved wellbeing that energy access can generate.” By directly engaging with District Officers, the RE2 Roadmap will be er identify the electrific­ation needs of communitie­s in each district.

“We welcome the Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrific­ation Roadmap initiative,” said SESB Chief Engineer of Sustainabl­e Energy Developmen­t, Terrence John Kouju.

SESB has long been commi ed to expanding renewable energy sources and rural electrific­ation within Sabah.

“We believe this Roadmap would complement ours and also the government’s planning strategies in providing electricit­y to the rural communitie­s of Sabah,” he added.

The RE2 Roadmap includes government participat­ion in skills transfer and knowledge building to enable the shi in operationa­l paradigms to decentrali­sed and climatefri­endly approaches.

Through a web of communicat­ion channels the initiative will create a portal through which societal understand­ing and awareness of the issues and the Roadmap process can grow.

The intention is to share knowledge, build common language, and garner support for implementa­tion of the RE2 Roadmap across the government and the wider public.

The RE2 Roadmap is an imperative for Sabah to begin a decisive shi towards sustainabl­e developmen­t, a low-carbon state economy and climate resilience.

As the world gears up for COP 26, the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, this project has won funding from UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerate­d Climate Transition­s), a £60m flagship programme under UK’s Internatio­nal Climate Finance (ICF) portfolio.

Sabah RE2 Roadmap was one of five projects presented at the Malaysia-UK Pact Project Portfolio Launch event on 11th August 2021.

Each project works with partners at national, state, and local levels in one of four areas of focus: low-carbon planning, nature, energy, and green finance.

With the Covid-19 pandemic taking up much of our collective focus over the last year, British High Commission­er to Malaysia, Charles Hay MVO, stressed in his welcoming address the need to also give a ention to the emerging climate crisis, and to work together to enable vulnerable countries to improve their climate resilience.

We as Sabah are small enough to pivot, yet large enough to be relevant.

Cynthia Ong

 ?? — Photo courtesy of Tonibung. ?? Solar panel maintenanc­e at Kg Sabibingko­l, Pensiangan.
— Photo courtesy of Tonibung. Solar panel maintenanc­e at Kg Sabibingko­l, Pensiangan.

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